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How to Prevent SMS Phishing

One of the most common ways we communicate nowadays is through SMS or short message services. These messages can be sent through local or international cellular text services or web-based messaging applications like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Millions of SMS are sent and received each day anywhere in the world. Its short content and instant sending capability are a couple of reasons for its popularity. It is the fastest and most effective way to reach most smartphone users, ranking better than emails and phone calls.

Unlike email, however, a mobile phone’s inbox is not protected by traditional spam filters and other authentication systems. Malicious messages can easily make their way in, mixing with a user’s correspondence via SMS phishing.

What is SMS phishing?

SMS presents an opportunity for scammers. Many types of scams are used, but one that has gained traction is SMS phishing.

As the term suggests, SMS phishing, also known as “smishing,” is a cybersecurity attack that relies on user deception rather than more complicated technological methods. Its goal is to delude an unsuspecting victim into clicking a link embedded in the text message. This link leads to a fake website posing as a legitimate one or downloads malicious software into the victim’s phone.

How do I protect myself?

By now, many smartphone users are wary of these types of attacks. They know enough to delete and ignore these unwanted messages immediately. For others who are not as informed, though, smishing can be worrying. If you’re part of this group, here are some tips to prevent SMS scams from victimizing you.

Check the phone number.

Attackers typically pose as a trusted company. Some of the most commonly copied are banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. Check the official numbers and verify if the sender’s phone number matches them. You may also quickly look it up online. Some websites list identified scammers’ numbers.

Do not engage. 

Scammers often promise free services or products from reputable retailers. They may tempt you with shopping rewards or giveaway contests to elevate your excitement, making you take action without first considering its rationality.

A text congratulating you for winning a lottery you did not enter is best ignored. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Do not click any links in the message.

Clicking links from suspicious messages is like opening your home to welcome potential invaders. The best way to keep yourself safe from SMS phishing is NOT to click unknown links, no matter who sent them.

Do not panic.

Some smishing attempts bring a sense of urgency, such as a warning that your account will be deleted if you do not respond within minutes. But this serves to override your critical thinking and lower your usual defenses.  A user who is worried about their account is likely to act first and ask questions later. Do not take the bait. Calm yourself down before taking action.

Contact the institution directly. 

If you think there is a chance that the message may be legitimate, it won’t hurt to contact whatever institution or company it came from directly. Use a search engine to find their official website or call the official number they use.

Do not give out any sensitive information.

Reputable institutions will never ask for your login information, such as usernames or passwords, through text. If a message prompts you to input such information, it is a sure sign of SMS phishing.

Update your passwords regularly.

Your online banking accounts are particularly at risk of being targeted. If you ever become a target of a phishing scam, implementing safety measures on your password may stop them from accessing your accounts before damage can be done.

Install a trusted anti-malware app.

As stated previously, malware masquerading as real apps can be downloaded through links in SMS phishing attacks. To keep your device from being infected, install a reputable app that can secure you from these threats.

Report any scam messages you receive.

Ignoring and deleting SMS phishing attempts is enough to protect you, but reporting them would help others as well. Inform the companies that are being copied by scammers so that they can inform their userbase. The more people know about scam attacks, the less effective they will be.

The Takeaway

As our dependence on the internet for social interaction and business dealings increases, internet safety education becomes essential for everyone. Doing these steps will protect your sensitive data from SMS phishing, but it’s necessary to know other methods scammers use.

Various schemes will continue to pop up as attackers employ more sophisticated techniques. Whether through SMS scams or otherwise, the only natural way to not become a victim is to educate yourself continuously. Keep a healthy amount of skepticism and always think critically before clicking or responding.

Author Bio:

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games.